Chinese internet giant Baidu this week said it would launch the country’s first commercial self-driving taxi service in Beijing next month.

Baidu said it would begin operating the driverless service in Beijing’s Shijingshan district on 2 May, charging passengers a fixed fee of CNY30 (US$4.60) per ride.

Engineers would be available remotely to take control of the vehicles online in exceptional circumstances.

This was the latest effort to establish autonomous vehicles as a business in the country and followed months of trials by Baidu in several areas of Beijing, including Shunyi, Daxing and Haidian districts.

The company said it was now ready to scale up its driverless service into other areas of Beijing and other cities in China without providing a schedule.

Baidu’s general manager of autonomous driving technology said in a statement “introducing unmanned services is an indispensable stage for the commercialisation of autonomous driving”.

Other autonomous vehicle companies are currently conducting road tests and controlled trials mainly with back-up drivers behind the wheel ready to intervene in an emergency. These are typically free of charge for passengers.